- Applications for the second round of the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge across the Africa region just opened.
- Projects that qualify can receive grants of up to E2.2 million. Or, in exceptional cases, perhaps even more.
- “Projects can be experimental”, but ideally Google is looking for tangible ways to create new revenue streams for media organizations.
Applications for the second round of the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge across the Africa region just opened.
The Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge offers up to $150,000 (E2.2 million) in funding for selected ideas, though that is not a hard limit; ” special discretion on the total project cap may be considered” if the “scale and impact of a very large collaborative effort” warrants it.
Projects that qualify can receive grants of up to E2.2 million. Or, in exceptional cases, perhaps even more.
In the first round of grants awarded in early 2020, Google spent the equivalent of around R28 million on projects in 30 countries across Africa, the Middle East and Turkey, at an average of some R1.35 million per project.
According to Business Insider in South Africa it paid for the specialist website Food For Mzansi to train farmers and farm workers as journalists, and for news publisher Daily Maverick to set up a system to help small and medium publishers gain a “unified view” of readers by combining data from email service providers, customer relationship management systems, and drawn from browsing activity.
For the 2021 GNI Innovation Challenge, the focus is very much on money. Grants are open to any organizations that “aim to produce innovative, original journalism and to enlighten citizens with trustworthy journalistic content, whose projects focus on encouraging a more sustainable news ecosystem.”
Information sourced from the Google news initiative site the evaluation will take into account the impact on the broader news system, and a jury will be looking for a chance of “significant positive impact on the creation of new revenue streams and change the way people consume digital news”.
On the list of projects specifically excluded from consideration are any “which do not have any monetization component”.
Google’s money may cover only up to 70% of the total cost of a project, but the other 30% could be contributed by the applicant as operational expenses. Grants may not be used for actual editorial costs, or general overheads, but up to a fifth of the cash may be spent on marketing.
The application window opens on 22 February 2021 at 10 GMT, and closes on Monday, April 12 at 23:59 GMT. Only online applications in English will be considered. Applicants are asked to provide descriptions, detailed project plans and budget information via our online application form. They are also required to accept the Middle East, Turkey & Africa GNI Innovation Challenge Application Terms and Conditions.
Application Eligibility Requirements
The Middle East, Turkey & Africa GNI Innovation Challenge is open to organizations of every size, including freelancers and sole traders, that aim to produce innovative, original journalism and to enlighten citizens with trustworthy journalistic content, whose projects focus on encouraging a more sustainable news ecosystem.
Incorporated organizations need to be incorporated in one of the eligible countries within (countries listed in Terms & Conditions) in the Middle East, Turkey & Africa. Unincorporated organizations need to be registered in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa or, if unregistered, have their principal place of business based in the region.
All ideas are welcome but we require all projects to have clear indicators showing the impact of the project from a user perspective and/or from a business perspective (eg: audience indicators, business plan when relevant). Successful projects will also need to be delivered within one year.
We encourage innovative projects – focused on but not limited to – the areas below:
- Business Models
Projects can be experimental but must be measurable with well-defined goals. We encourage applicants to clearly underline the opportunities of the project by providing clear key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs should have a significant digital component.
Projects will be evaluated against five main criteria:
Impact on the news ecosystem: Projects should demonstrate potential for significant positive impact on the creation of new revenue streams and/or change the way people consume digital news.
Innovation: Preferred projects will be innovative (use of technology, business model, new reader engagement approaches etc) and be transformative for the applicant and for users.
Feasibility: Projects should demonstrate clear indicators and metrics, or even a business plan when relevant, and set out key risks and mitigation steps.
Inspiration: How can the project help news organizations learn from each other? Willingness to share knowledge, open source code or/and to contribute to the improvement of the ecosystem overall.
Diversity: Preferred projects will be able to demonstrate their self-defined commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion whether that is within their audience, organisation or content. Google is committed to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and works to support companies/projects which are inline with such values.
Projects that would NOT qualify for Innovation Challenge funding include:
- Projects relating to news coverage only or projects merely translating news content into other languages
- Upgrades of legacy publishing systems
- Projects that relate to simply collating or listing data (for example, the publication of job listings or stock exchange data, or the re-publication of newswire articles);
- Projects on training or education only
- Projects which do not have any monetization component
- Projects which do not impact a news organization
- Projects which reflect research without implementation
Google will fund up to $150,000 for selected projects. Special discretion on the total project cap may be considered by The Jury depending on the scale and impact of a very large collaborative effort. Google will finance up to 70% of the overall costs of the selected projects. The remaining self-funded costs can be operational costs. Eligible expenses include personnel costs, engineering costs and the purchase or licensing of any equipment, tools, hardware, software and other assets or materials needed for the project as well as marketing expenses (capped to 20% of the total amount requested). Editorial expenses are not part of the eligible costs and will not be covered. Funding may not be spent on general and overhead costs.
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